$teak Hou$e$

Saturday night Derwood and I used one of our wedding gifts and went out to dinner at The Ringside, an old school Portland steak house which originally opened in 1944. A couple of years ago, the restaurant closed for more than a year for remodeling. I wasn’t the only Portlander concerned that they would ruin the unique, warm ambiance of this landmark restaurant. I was thrilled to discover that it looks just the same, the construction was in the kitchen and offices.


I remember going to the Ringside as a kid and it was dark and smoky. I would be dressed up like the grown ups but would have a Shirley Temple instead of a Manhattan and an unfiltered cigarette. The tables are heavy slabs of dark wood and each table has a little lamp, which when combined with all the other little lamps at all the other dark tables casts a warm glow throughout the dining room. The big stone fireplace still roars and in the little corner bar there are autographed black and white photos of famous boxers like Muhammed Ali.


As you can tell, I have a long-lived affection for this place. I always order the steak Oscar typically with a ribeye and an iceberg wedge salad; which the Ringside has had on the menu since 1944, not just because the salad is back in vogue now. They don’t have the little gravy boats for the dressing anymore, remember those? We didn’t order the onion rings which Ringside is known for but I have had them many times and they are just as good as their reputation.

This blog isn’t just a paean to The Ringside, it is an investigative piece on what in the holy hell is going on with the pricing at steak houses??? Not just this one but ALL steakhouses. What is going on? Dinner Saturday night cost $185 for two people (including tip and drinks but Deren drinks N/A beer and I ordered 3 glasses of wine …. only drank 2 because I was so full. No dessert. No cocktails. No brandy.) My steak with the crab and asparagus “Oscar” topping was $64.50. Sixty-four American Dollars and Fifty American Cents. And it was good but it wasn’t a life changing experience. I saw a Porterhouse for Two on the menu and it could be yours for $125. There is a menu item that costs $125.


The Ringside offers steamed broccoli for $7.75 and a side of asparagus for $9.75.

I’m not just picking on The Ringside. I LOVE The Ringside. I’m talking about all steak houses. I have looked up the menus for Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s but they don’t show the prices online which is bullshit so I’m not going to go there.

El Gaucho in Portland:

Bone-in 18 oz New York — $74

Frenched Rib Chop (I don’t even know what that is) — $68

El Gaucho will do the Oscar addition for $20 so I guess the $15.25 at Ringside is a bargain. They will also let you have some roquefort dressing for $5, blue cheese dressing. Five dollars. They also offer asparagus for $12 and a baked RUSSET potato for $7.

This gets my gristle.

Other examples….

My brother went to Elways in Denver so I checked out their menu.

They have a corn chowder for $10, wedge salad $10, 16 oz crab legs $58, ribeye $49 and their Oscar is only $12. Elways really isn’t the highest price of the bunch.

And now to Chicago, 2013’s steakhouse of the year there is David Burke’s Primehouse.

Wedge salad $11, lobster bisque $12, ribeye $51, or the 75 day (dry aging) for $68. They have a policy of $7 per side dish or three for $19, not a bad deal. They also offer a tofu steak for $18.

I am losing perspective because after reading all these menus, I start thinking “well I guess that’s not bad.”

Here’s the thing I can eat a ribeye or NY steak and a good one at a restaurant that isn’t a steak house and it costs $25 (23 Hoyt), top sirloin $27 (Jo Bar), NY $26 (Cafe Castagna) and Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen another longstanding Portland restaurant (founded in 1947) has a ribeye for $33.95. OR I can buy them and grill them at home and let’s say I get two for $30-40.

What do you think? Is it me? Or is steakhouse pricing a little crazy? Like bovine insanity??


21 thoughts on “$teak Hou$e$

  1. Steak houses can suck it with their ridiculous prices. A steak is something I can do at home just as well, so there’s no need for me to spend a fortune at their place. And I make a mean homemade blue cheese dressing to go on my wedge of lettuce too. Lol. We have a joint in the city called Tuckers that I guess is sort of a steak house. They have good burgers for $5 for lunch and on paydays, I’ll get the 20oz sirloin steak. It’s $19. Don’t you judge me! Oh, and half that price when I’m on duty so…win! Don’t tell anyone that though.

      1. I’ve had one steak at a steakhouse that I remember thinking, “damn, this is awesome!” I was in Dallas and was too drunk to remember the name of the place. Chamberlains maybe? Otherwise, they’re all good, but not life changing as you say. Life changing for the worse I guess, like a breast reduction because my wallet is lighter.

  2. Jane Hill

    At a Travel PDX networking event I recieved a “complimentary” appetizer with any purchase from El Gaucho- I was SO excited! Until I looked up the prices. Went to Urban Farmer and steaks were the same high prices you mentioned. A chef friend are at Urban for a b-day and raved about quality of the meat.
    I would actually rather take the $185, get all the perfect pantry items needed for the whole meal and eat like that every week.

    For everyday life we have always shopped the “rotten meat” section at Safeway and that’s when we decide what’s for dinner. I stole the phrase from a budget guru on AMNW, and we use it regularly- much to our dinner guests chagrin.

    1. Jane Hill

      Oh, one more thing –
      I have only been to Ringside for happy hour- the BEST French Dip and steak bites. Let’s go there. Soon.

  3. The best steak I have ever eaten in my life was the t-bone served at Peter Luger’s, a legendary steakhouse in Brooklyn. You pay dearly there, but I thought the food was worth every penny. As for the service, back in the 90s I went there a few times. The waiters were all gruff impatient old guys who probably last smiled in 1930. I remember one asked me, “You want the steak, right?” I felt defensive when I said, “Yeah!” He barked, “And the creamed spinach and the potatoes, right?” Again, I said, “Yeah!” You were not allowed to say how you wanted anything prepared and the menu, I suppose, was nothing more than a prop. But fortunately, I prefer meat rare so it didn’t matter. At the end of the meal, which I emphasize was excellent, the waiter returned. He tossed three gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins on our table. His way of saying, “Pay your tab and get the hell out.”

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